The newest batch of Twitter Files shows that the FBI appears to have intentionally “primed” Twitter executives to censor the New York Post Hunter Biden laptop story after a months-long witch hunt for foreign disinformation on the platform.
Independent journalist Michael Shellenberger, who broke the story, summarized the latest drop saying: “In Twitter Files #7, we present evidence pointing to an organized effort by representatives of the intelligence community (IC), aimed at senior executives at news and social media companies, to discredit leaked information about Hunter Biden before and after it was published.”
Shellenberger set the stage explaining that the FBI obtained the laptop as early as December 2019 from a “Delaware computer store owner” who claimed Biden had left it with him. “By Aug 2020, Mac Isaac [the store owner] still had not heard back from the FBI, even though he had discovered evidence of criminal activity. And so he emails Rudy Giuliani, who was under FBI surveillance at the time. In early Oct, Giuliani gives it to @nypost,” Shellenberger wrote.
In July 2020, FBI special agent Elvis Chan, who had open email communications with Twitter executives, arranged to give certain Twitter brass “Top Secret security clearances.”
And by Sept, 15, 2020, he met with then Twitter Deputy General Counsel and ex-FBI General Counsel Jim Baker. In addition, Chan gave Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth information on the Russian hacking organization, APT28 “through the FBI's secure, one-way communications channel, Teleporter,” Shellenberger wrote.
Roth recently admitted in an interview with journalist Kara Swisher that when the Hunter Biden story came out, "it set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 hack-and-lea[k] campaign alarm bells."
24. Recently, Yoel Roth told @karaswisher that he had been primed to think about the Russian hacking group APT28 before news of the Hunter Biden laptop came out.— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 19, 2022
When it did, Roth said, "It set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 hack-and-leap campaign alarm bells." pic.twitter.com/RKoR4NtH1s
Shellenberger reported that on Oct. 14, 2020, the day the New York Post released the Hunter Biden laptop story, Roth admitted that morning that “‘it isn’t clearly violative of our Hacked Materials Policy, nor is it clearly in violation of anything else,’” according to screenshots of a Roth email tweeted by Shellenberger. “‘[T]his feels a lot like a somewhat subtle leak operation,’” he added
Baker, however, repeated the line that the reports may have contained “hacked materials.”
In a company comment thread, Baker wrote that he supported “the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked,” adding, “at this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted.”
Baker continually doubled down. He wrote in an email to Roth that he’d “seen some reliable cybersecurity folks question the authenticity of the emails in another way (i.e., that there is no metadata pertaining to them that has been released and the formatting looks like they could be complete fabrications.),” according to screenshots tweeted by Shellenberger.
Forty-five minutes after Baker’s email to Roth, Roth announced that Twitter’s official policy would be to censor the story on the basis of “consensus from experts monitoring election security and disinformation that this looks a lot like a hack-and-leak,” according to Shellenberger’s screenshots.
38. By 10 am, Twitter execs had bought into a wild hack-and-dump story— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 19, 2022
“The suggestion from experts - which rings true - is there was a hack that happened separately, and they loaded the hacked materials on the laptop that magically appeared at a repair shop in Delaware” pic.twitter.com/n2Xj9mP1Hs
As Shellenberger put it, it appears that the FBI “primed” Roth for that very moment.
“During all of 2020, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies repeatedly primed Yoel Roth to dismiss reports of Hunter Biden’s laptop as a Russian ‘hack and leak’ operation,” Shellenberger tweeted.
In a sworn declaration provided in December 2020, Roth explained his consistent communication with the FBI:
“Since 2018, I have had regular meetings with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and industry peers regarding election security,” he said. “During these weekly meetings, the federal law enforcement agencies communicated that they expected ‘hack-and-leak operations’ by state actors might occur in the period shortly before the 2020 presidential election, likely in October”
Chan, however, admitted in a November 2022 deposition in the ongoing Big Government-Big Tech collusion case of State of Missouri v. Joe Biden that the “hack-and-leak” concern was not substantiated by any actual current evidence of hacking.
“Through our investigations, we did not see any ideal similar competing intrusions to what had happened in 2016,” he conceded. “So although from our standpoint we had not seen anything, we specifically, in an abundance of caution, warned the companies in case they saw something that we did not.”
But Chan didn’t merely warn the companies, according to the Twitter Files. He went on something of a fishing expedition. The files show Chan asking if certain Twitter posts or accounts were associated with malicious foreign actors on three separate occasions between May and August 2020.
“Time and again, FBI asks Twitter for evidence of foreign influence & Twitter responds that they aren’t finding anything worth reporting,” wrote Shellenberger.
20. Time and again, FBI asks Twitter for evidence of foreign influence & Twitter responds that they aren’t finding anything worth reporting.— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 19, 2022
“[W]e haven’t yet identified activity that we’d typically refer to you (or even flag as interesting in the foreign influence context).” pic.twitter.com/ghGNz4ZzXB
This newest batch of Twitter Files emerged days after another batch that showed the FBI giving Twitter a list of accounts to censor.
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